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Sibu ferries still overloading their boats

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Sibu ferries still overloading their boats

Post Number:#1  Postby timyang » Thu Dec 30, 2010 12:45 pm

MERSING- Ferry operators did not seem to have learned any lesson from the accident on Sunday where four Singaporeans drowned and one was still missing. An operator here was yesterday found to have overloaded its vessel with passengers. The ferry, which has a capacity of 140 passengers, was seized and its captain detained by the Mersing Marine Department after it was found carrying eight extra passengers.

The department was alerted by the New Straits Times after a passenger sent a text message to an editor about the overloaded ferry.

A spokesman for the department said the ferry, Gemilang 1, left the jetty at Pulau Tioman for here about 1pm.

The spokesman said the department also alerted the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) when it received the information.

The passengers were islanders, students studying on the mainland and tourists. Enforcement officers conducted a check on the ferry upon its arrival at the jetty here.

Marine Southern Region First Admiral Zulkifili Abu Bakar confirmed the seizure and arrest.

On the search for missing Singaporean Eng Kian Tek, 44, Zulkifili said the search had been intensified.

Eng was on the overloaded bumboat carrying 29 passengers which capsized about 200m from the Tanjung Leman jetty near here on Sunday.

The passengers comprised 19 Singaporeans, nine Malaysians and a Chinese national.

The search operation involved more than 200 personnel from the Marine Operations Force, People's Volunteer Corps, Civil Defence Force, Fire and Rescue Department, MMEA, police air unit and villagers.

Initial investigations revealed that overloading was the cause of the accident as the boat could only accommodate 12 people. The passengers were also not provided with life jackets.

The 1.30pm incident occurred as the boat was arriving at the mainland from the popular Kelong Ayu near Pulau Sibu.

The four bodies which were recovered were that of Low Lee Jun, 33, Chua Lim Khoon, 45, Adrian Tan, 67, and Tor Soon Kwee, 41.

The boat operator and boatman were remanded to assist in investigations under Section 304A of the Penal Code for causing death by negligence.

Zulkifli said two days before the accident, a fisherman was also feared drowned after he fell off his boat about 5.15pm near Pulau Seri Buat and Pulau Harimau in waters here, known to be quite choppy at this time of the year.

The fishing boat captain lodged a police report after realising that one of his crew members was missing.

A search and rescue operation for the missing fisherman is ongoing.

Zulkifli said based on the weather forecast by the Malaysian Meteorological Department, all boats were advised against sailing in the waters here for the whole week.

"It is in category three alert, which means that the waters are rough and choppy, with waves as high as 5m and strong winds of up to 60kph.

"There should not be any water sports activities either. We have intensified checks on passenger boats and our officers stationed at the jetties will ensure that no boats are allowed to go out to sea."
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Safety not top priority for Sibu ferries

Post Number:#2  Postby timyang » Thu Dec 30, 2010 12:55 pm

SINGAPORE - Life jackets inconsistently used, boats that are sometimes overcrowded and passengers unschooled in safety procedures - this is how Singaporeans who have been to kelongs off Sibu island, including Ah You Kelong, describe their boat rides.

It is normal to have two to five extra passengers on board a boat with the capacity for 12, said a regular visitor who wanted to be known only as Mr Oh.

"But to have 30 passengers is really too much. In my mind, if there are waves and water splashing into the boat, children or those who are inexperienced might rush to the other side of the boat to avoid the water, which would cause imbalance. They don't teach you safety procedures," said the 49-year-old.

Mr Ong, a technician, has been to Ah You Kelong about six times in the last three years and said he avoids going in December due to stronger winds and waves; March, July and November are better times to visit.

The kelongs off Sibu are popular with Singaporeans with a penchant for fishing and accounts of their trips can be found on numerous websites.

Business manager S T Teow, 53, was part of a 40-member group from Hillview Connections Fun Walkers Club who had gone to Ah Fatt Kelong, about 500m from Ah You, on Christmas Eve.

The group did not don life vests on the boat ride there but were instructed to do so on the ride back, he said. Though "curious" about the inconsistency, he did not question why.

Asked if he would do things differently in future, Mr Teow said: "Hindsight is 20/20 but nobody has that kind of foresight. When herded onto the ferry, everyone just followed; we didn't even think twice ... If you take a trip all the way there and question whether you should get on the ferry, it would be like (being) a spoilsport."
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